A virtually humorous drama about marital cheating.
Reviewed for MovieWeb by Harvey Karten
Directed By: Massy Tadjedin
Written By: Massy Tadjedin
Cast: Eva Mendes, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Guillame Canet, Griffin Dunne
Screened at: Tribeca Screening Room, NYC, 4/15/11
Opens: May 6, 2011
There's something about marital cheating that makes the theme one of the most popular ones in literature, theater, the tabloids, and film. The fascination started in Greece when Queen Clytemnestra killed her husband, King Agamemnon because she was jealous about his relationship with Cassandra-though she, enjoying her own lover, Aegisthus, was no innocent either. Massy Tadjedin, the Iranian-American who wrote and directs "Last Night," may be no Aeschylus, but in her movie she does raise interesting points about cheating. If you love your wife but physically cheat on her, is that worse than being a wife who does not love her husband, yet restrains herself (merely hugging in bed) when she has the opportunity for sexual relations? "Last Night" examines the concept of cheating, allowing the audience to leave the theater withthat question to ponder. However, the film is as talky as something out of Erich Rohmer-"Claire's Knee," for example-a work that might appeal to French cineastes more than to a broad American audience. The characters in "Last Night" are an attractive lot, smart, gorgeous, and funny, and they say about the most desirable people, but aside from an argument in the early part of the drama, melodramatics are non-existent and the chatter induces drowsiness.
The film highlights Keira Knightley in the role of Joanna, a freelance writer married to Michael (Sam Worthington), a successful analyst for commercial real estate. Joanna is furious that Michael has paid too close attention to his co-worker, Laura (Eva Mendes) at a party but later admits that she may have overreacted. But had she really? When Michael goes away on an overnight to Philadelphia with Laura, giving him the opportunity to do more than discuss the prices of buildings per square feet, Joanna has grounds for susp*cion. Never mind that on that very night she serendipitously runs into an old flame, Alex (Guillaume Canet), who is better looking, more sophisticated and confident than Michael. As drinks turn to dinner for the four, then to rendezvous in a hotel or at home respectively, we watch to see whether for each pair there will be a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Alex and Joanna are the primary couple studied under Peter Deming's camera-though considerable time is given to the increasingly intimate relationship between Michael and Laura. All are about to make choices that could end Michael and Joanna's seven-year marriage. Never mind that the couple are leading envious lives in Manhattan's rich Soho area in a loft with a suburban-sized kitchen and taxis that take them wherever and whenever they need to move around town. What counts is not so much money as emotions, or more bluntly that everyone has brains that are situated below the belt. Still, the drama, which is virtually without humor save for a single comment, could use more of a Woody Allen touch, the characters could speak more distinctly (though the projectionist at the screening I attended may be clueless about the volume of the presentation), and more fireworks could have been used to add variety to action that borders on the static.
Rated R. 90 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online